Karl-Hermann Geib

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Karl-Hermann Geib
Born March 12, 1908
Died July 21, 1949
Nationality German
Fields physical chemist
Alma mater Leipzig University

Karl-Hermann Geib (March 12, 1908 – July 21, 1949) was a German physical chemist, who is co-author of a widely used industrial method for heavy water producing by isotopic exchange between H2S and H2O (the Geib–Spevack (GS) process or Girdler sulfide process).


Born in the family of employees: father - regirungsrat (senior government official) Carl Geib, mother - Maria Geib (geb. Buddee). In 1931, Karl-Hermann Geib graduated Leipzig University [1] and joined the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institut für physikalische Chemie und Elektrochemie of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Gesellschaft in Berlin-Dahlem. The first scientific work he performed under the direction of Paul Harteck. Shortly after Hartek highway crossing in Cambridge Geib returned to alma mater - the Leipzig University and married Hedwig Delbrück. He began exploring the reactions of the newly opened deuterium. Independently and jointly with V. T. Forster, E. W. R. Steacie, A. Lendl, R. K. F. Bonhoeffer and L. D. C. Bok he published a number of papers, the results of which are reflected in his review.[2] In 1937, Geib defended his doctoral thesis.[3]

After beginning of World War II (1940), Geib went to the chemical industrial complexes Leunawerke and proceeded under the Hartek's direction of the development process production of heavy water by a two-temperature isotopic exchange between hydrogen sulfide and water. So he received reservation on the mobilization, which for him was a significant factor. Karl and Hedwig Geib at the time had four children from infancy to five years: Katharina Oestreich (1937), Barbara Geib-Pietsch (1937), Ruprecht Geib (1939) and Ulrike Heise (1939).

The developed process was more effective than process with exchange in a hydrogen-water system, but its implementation was delayed. To create production capacity due to corrosion of hydrogen sulfide would take a lot of special alloys, which in time of war there is a shortage. Simultaneously developed by Jerome Spevak in the U.S. (1943) the same process did not develop at first for the same reason.[4] Immediately after the war under the auspices of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany and other agencies in the Leunawerke had assembled a group of experts, led by Paul Herold, a former Director on science. Geib joined the group. Pilot plants were restored and study of the process by isotopic exchange between hydrogen and water was continued. Besides the preliminary draft of plant with hydrogen sulfide annual capacity 5 tons of heavy water was designed.


Strategically important defense works were transferred to the territory of the USSR. The Soviet feared inspection by former allies. As part of a special Operation Osoaviakhim Herold's group night 21–22 October 1946 was sent to Moscow (most professionals go with their families). Pilot plants were dismantled and transported to a new workplace, the Karpov Institute of Physical Chemistry. Documentation and the project of the hydrosulfide process were transferred to Soviet specialists for further development. This technology has been tested at the pilot plant in another research institute оf the Ministry of Chemical Industry. Thereafter, in the ammunition plant number 100 in Aleksin near Tula, the hydrogen sulphide process was started, and it was the first in the world (1949).[5]

Volume of work, performed by German experts on heavy water in Karpov Institute, is not known. Program early works were ripped off, the relevant department at the Institute disbanded, the German specialists transferred (1948) to Liskhimstroy (Ukraine, after 1950 Sievierodonetsk). Here specialists were used in construction nitrogen fertilizer chemical plant, imported from Germany.[5] When Geib trying to get political asylum in Canada, he was arrested, and died shortly thereafter.[citation needed]

Works on heavy water in Germany and USSR were conducted in strict secrecy, so many facts in this story are unclear.


  1. ^ Geib K. H. (1931). Thesis Dissertation: Die Einwirkung von atomarem auf molekularen Wasserstoff. Leipzig Akad. Verlagsges. 
  2. ^ Geib K. H. (1938). "Chemische Reaktionen der schweren Wasserstoffatome". Z. Elektrochem. 44 (№ 1): 81–88. 
  3. ^ Geib, K. H. (1937). Thesis Dissertation: Reaktionen der Wasserstoff- und Sauerstoffatome. Leipzig. 
  4. ^ Sadovsky A. S. (2011). "Heavy water. History of one priority. Part 1" (e-journal). Issledovano v Rossii (Studied in Russia) (30е). 
  5. ^ a b Sadovsky A. S. (2011). "Heavy water. History of one priority. Part 2" (e-journal). Issledovano v Rossii (Studied in Russia) (31е).